Are You in the Market for Entry-Level Accounting Jobs?

By Robert Half on September 13, 2021 at 8:50pm

Are you looking for an entry-level jobs for accountants? Accounting is a diverse field with many career paths, and entry-level roles can range from data entry and bookkeeping to financial analysis and forensics.

Before you start applying for entry-level accountant jobs, you’ll want to consider whether public or private accounting is a better match for you. Public accounting is a promising choice for recent graduates who want to work with many clients. Private accounting — working in-house for a single company — lets you go deep into a specific industry.

Or, if you’re interested in solving financial mysteries, you might head into a career in auditing or forensic accounting.

Here’s a closer look at where you might look for entry-level accountant jobs.

Opportunities in public accounting

The field of public accounting is dominated by the “Big Four” firms — Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG — and supported by many local and regional firms. Public accountants provide auditing, tax, forensic accounting, and advisory and consulting services for clients around the world. In-demand specialties within public accounting include tax preparation and planning, auditing services, and financial planning.

In the current business environment, many companies, particularly small and midsize firms, need help supporting clients with consumer assistance programs and changing compliance deadlines.

Public accounting firms often offer competitive pay and benefits and an opportunity to work with prestigious clients. Many also help support employees’ continuing education, including earning the certified public accountant (CPA) certification.

But know this going in: The work is challenging. It can be stressful and unpredictable — with long hours. Many public accounting firms prioritize work-life balance for their staff, but the hours and workload can still be intense for employees even when working remotely.

Opportunities in the private sector

Private accounting embeds you in one organization, so you get to know the company and its industry inside and out. You can find entry-level accountant jobs at family-owned businesses as well as Fortune® 500 firms. And while you don’t need to be a CPA to work at a private business, companies often pay higher salaries for accountants with this and related qualifications.

Accountants can take on various roles in the private sector. Corporate accountants might be involved in everything from helping to negotiate real estate transactions to managing federal and state tax issues and interacting with bankers.

Like public accounting, long hours and stressful demands can accompany accounting jobs in the private sector. However, private accountants don’t have to face pressure from clients to reduce fees and hours nor competition from other firms like their public counterparts do.

Also note that job stability in private accounting is closely tied to a company’s financial health.

Opportunities in financial services

The banking, lending and investment industries are always on the lookout for talented accounting and finance professionals. As lower mortgage rates continue to drive loan originations and refinance activity, staff are needed to help borrowers with mortgage and loan modifications. This industry also needs risk, compliance, audit, fraud and forensics specialists.

In the financial services sector, commercial banking offers a path for finance professionals to work in jobs ranging from bank tellers and retail loan officers to commercial credit analysts and commercial bankers. Specialty areas in investment banking include fund administration, clearing and settlement operations, asset management, and collateral and derivatives.

Opportunities in healthcare, nonprofits and government

Healthcare

Healthcare remains a dynamic area for accounting, finance and revenue cycle positions. Tech-savvy accounting and finance professionals are in demand as healthcare organizations continue to increase their virtual service offerings, including the use of telehealth.

There are many paths to take in the healthcare field. You might want to build a career in healthcare payroll jobs, for example. Or you might consider entry-level accountant jobs such as a medical billing professional role and work your way up to become a supervisor, manager, director and vice president of revenue cycle.

Nonprofits

The nonprofit sector is another option for building an accounting and finance career. Accountants for nonprofits are in charge of handling funds including contributions, membership dues and fundraising activities and ensuring that the organization follows the rules separating nonprofits and for-profit entities.

Government

Entry-level accountant jobs are also available in government, at the federal, state and local levels. Many government agencies are looking to replace professionals who have retired and also hire financial workers to help support their efforts to modernize their infrastructure.

Government accounting jobs are ideal for people who are interested in public service, are analytical and have high ethical standards. Government employers can offer challenging and meaningful work and typically offer compelling benefits and retirement plans that often include pensions.

Education

Keep in mind that your level of education is likely to be a key factor in your ability to compete for entry-level accountant jobs. For example, positions such as bookkeeper or accounting clerk may only require a high school diploma or an associate degree. But you’ll find more opportunities if you have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting, finance or business.

If you’d like to pursue a career as a CPA, which opens up even more doors, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree with some graduate-level work— and perhaps an MBA. After earning your degree, you must also pass a rigorous four-part exam. This is an essential step if you want to work in some areas of public accounting: Anyone filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for example, is required by law to be a CPA.

Finding entry-level accountant jobs

Whatever path in the accounting profession you choose, you can count on building a career that will grow with you as you earn new skills and gain more experience.

To stand out from the crowd when applying for entry-level accountant jobs, make sure your resume highlights your soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, in addition to your accounting skills. You might mention volunteering experience, for example, or point to collaborative projects you’ve been engaged in through campus organizations. If you are a new accounting graduate, be sure to also showcase your previous work experience, such as internships or part-time jobs.

It also helps to demonstrate that you are comfortable working with and learning new technology. The use of automation, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other technologies is expanding rapidly in business — and in accounting and finance functions, too.

When seeking entry-level accountant jobs, it’s beneficial to have a strong support system. An effective strategy is to work with a talent solutions firm that specializes in placing accounting and finance professionals. A recruiter who understands what today’s employers want can help you find the best position to suit your skills, interests and career goals.

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